Future Self.

“Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.” -Robin Sharma

Three years from now, what will your “future self” think of your current self? Will you even be the same person? A very compelling question to consider.

How can we plan, if we don’t account for our future self?

The question went deeper with a quote from an 18th-century philosopher Joseph Butler. He wrote, “if the self or person of today, and that of tomorrow, are not the same, but only like persons, the person of today is really no more interested in what will befall the person of tomorrow, than in what will befall any other person,”

Oh crap! Is Bulter suggesting that we don’t have a stake in our future self? Or is he suggesting that we are so disconnected from our future self that we don’t get invested? Hmm. I love existential angst with my morning coffee.

I have always embraced life “as sprints in a marathon.” The finish line for sprints is in my visual range. I can push myself to the limit with the end in sight. Linking a thousand sprints together, you get a marathon. Speaking of running, let me illustrate my thought process. My morning runs are filled with motivational music to get my juices flowing. This morning, Red Rider’s Lunatic Fringe kicked me off. The next song raised my tempo another notch with these lyrics.

It’s go, go, go, go, go, go, go time
Tick, tick, boom

We’re bringin’ the noise
Oh, baby, we bringin’ out toys

Separate men from the boys
Chopper be singin’, should be on The Voice
Bang, bang, we gon’ ride out
Gang, gang, we don’t die out
When it like this, ain’t no timeouts
Tell me who really gon’ find out?

Tick Tick Boom by Sage the Gemini (Dominic Wynn Woods) delivers the “It’s go, go, go, go, go, go, go time” I need to be shifting gears.

The edgy upbeat music and energizing lyrics jack my adrenaline. The night before my daily runs I lay out my clothes, check the weather and align my music. I set the stage for success. And for 2,563 straight days, thinking of my future (next morning) self has allowed me to battle through injuries, hurricanes, and the occasional cold. Let’s ignore the mental chatter trying to repress my consistency. I have made a game out of counting the terrible weather days when I would be the only runner. The days any right-minded person would stay in.

I was COVID-19 positive in July of ’20. No big deal. Off I ran. Running every day for years without a miss is simply mind over matter. If I don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. And my daily preparation with a nod to my future self is a positive catalyst for consistency.

Yes, I agree, my streak is pretty cool. However, I am still openly awed by more compelling feats of human willpower and insanely disciplined stubbornness. I observed one such feat on social media early this week.

I know, social media is rightly scolded for being fake, mostly illusion, and unsubstantial with its’ filters and ability to do retakes. In life, this moment is one of kind. Not subject to a golfer’s mulligan, a reshoot, and the magic of photoshop. A life lived authentically, is raw, highly visceral, and largely uncensored. However, if you look real close you might be witness to a few stunning transformations. I follow a young lady’s blog where she has photographically documented her metamorphosis from a fleshly cacoon to a butterfly dropping serious weight. She is literally half her starting body size.

The end result for this recklessly honest blogger is a pretty and slim woman almost unrecognizable from her past self. She made the journey from the eve of self-destruction to a bona fide hottie in a year. Let me repeat that, in 365 days the lady blogger transformed herself from self-harming with food into a world-beater.

I bow to the butterfly blogger who was willing to pay daily homage to her future self. She traded a lot of “here and now” for the elusive and uncertain promise of “one day soon.” For a year, the lady kicked ass. She has my unabashed admiration. But more than any praise heaped on her, now she possesses the recipe for the magic elixir that delivers change. The world is her oyster.

In synchronicity, I ran across the article “How thinking about ‘future you” can build a happier life” by David Robson a science writer and author based in London, UK. His latest book, The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life, is on Amazon. His article appeared on the BBC’s website. As I am putting the finishing touches on my book “Beyond the Hype: The Art of Thinking4Tomorrow“, his subject matter piqued my interest.

He writes, “We should think more about whom we’ll be in the future – because doing so has profound consequences for our health, happiness, and financial security.”

In 2018, Hal Hershfield an associate professor of marketing, behavioral decision making, and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles found that people’s future self-continuity could predict their exercise behaviors and overall fitness. The more you identify with, or can envision your future self, the more willing you are to look after your body for your “future self”.

In 2020, Hershfield confirmed that someone’s (in)ability to identify with their future self can have long-term consequences. The longitudinal study, which tracked more than 4,000 participants for a decade, found someone’s future self-continuity at the beginning of the study could predict their life satisfaction 10 years later. For anyone wondering whether taking the time to Visioneer your long-term goals matters, Hershfield’s findings make a solid case.

Meghan Meyer, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College recently went further down the “future self-continuity” rabbit hole asking participants to estimate the future-self continuity overlap at various time points.  In agreement with Hershfield’s work, Meyer found that the average participant’s concept of their future self diverged from their concept of the current self fairly rapidly. A large sense of disconnection already appeared at the three-month point. (see graphic B below)

Eureka! I believe the two researchers have found it. The reason why New Year’s resolutions fail.

Excerpted from “Temporal self-compression: Behavioral and neural evidence that past and future selves are compressed as they move away from the present Temporal self-compression”
(Sasha Brietzkea & Meghan L. Meyer)

Interestingly this disconnect plateaued in later time points. As such, there was little difference between the nine-month and year time points. Also, the disconnect from our “future self” out more than a couple of months is irrevocable. Meyer suggests that their vision of their future self was becoming “blurrier” and less nuanced. Meyer says, “It’s consistent with this philosophical idea that you treat your distant future self, like a stranger.”

Unless you can introduce a process to keep your life flying straight and level toward your future self or produce a map of how to get from your present self to your future self without getting lost, most of us are destined to stay estranged from our future self. Allow me to excerpt from my “Wildest Dreams” post on December 30th of 2021 about New Year’s resolutions to crystalize my thoughts.

One of the key things I feel like I’ve learned in the last decade of studying this is that goal failure is the norm,” Dr. Milkman said in a CNN interview. “The whole ball game is figuring out how we recover from failure, keep trying and getting better.”

According to a survey by Statista, only four percent of people who made New Year’s resolutions in 2018 said they kept them. (See below)

This statistic shows the results of a survey, conducted in December 2018 in the United States, on whether Americans stuck to their New Year’s resolutions for 2018, or not. During the survey, 16 percent of respondents said they stuck to some of the resolutions they made for 2018, while 13 percent said they kept none

Do you want to change something about yourself in the new year? If you want it bad enough, you will find a “way” that worked for you in the past. And you will repeat it.

A couple of key phrases from my forthcoming book to punctuate this post. “Failure finds success”. “Success feeds on success”. And “Success breeds confidence”. With confidence, the sky is the limit. My butterfly blogger mentioned above has experienced this metamorphosis. She understands the transformative process of hit and miss. Failure finding success and success feeding on success. She lived it. And the results speak for themselves.

Here is the really cool part of my post. If the lady blogger can do it. So can you. The primary way we learn as humans is by mimicking. Doing what others have done before you and copying them.

Only 70 days have elapsed in 2022. 19.1% of the year. If you are on course. Good for you. If you veered off your intended path, your Visioneering or resolutions are still alive and ready for a reboot. For me, I am making progress toward my goals while balancing the natural chaos of big dreams. My “future self” is taking the exit (see above) and staying on course.

How about you?

A shout out to Stephanie Chaaya, a mindset guru who probably thought I wasn’t paying attention to her short helpful missive this morning. Seriously, I surround myself with people much smarter than me, like Stephanie. Ms. Chaaya, your words triggered my creative juices thank you. For those of you in need of a reboot, contact Stephanie she will get “mindset” right. I have hot-linked her name to her Instagram presence.

Until next time. Stay frosty my friends.

Published by Robert Q Watson

During my first six decades on this earth, I lived life at great heights often on the razor’s edge. Consequently, I have enjoyed incredible successes and endured mind-numbing failures. Truthfully, I have had a hell of a view.

2 thoughts on “Future Self.

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